Photo Courtesy of thesummitleague.org. South Dakota State University’s Mike Daum owned the night.
For the first two-thirds of the first half, South Dakota State University (16-16) had their way with the Pioneers. At one point, the Jackrabbits canned 9-13 shots, seemingly hitting every shot they threw at the bucket. Denver (16-14) was missing their shots, couldn’t buy a rebound and looked totally out of sync. South Dakota’s duo of Mike Daum with 21 points and Reed Tellinghuisen with 11 points had their way with a plodding Denver defense. SDSU isolated all-everything Mike Daum on DU defenders and he continuously beat Denver from every place on the floor. The Pioneers had no answer. Daniel Amigo went 1-7 from the floor and picked up three fouls in the half trying to stop the offensive assault from #24. The Jacks lead ballooned to 17 points – but it looked and felt worse.
In the final 8 minutes of the first half, the Pioneers responded behind C.J. Bobbitt’s 16 points. Almost single-handedly, C.J. Bobbitt showed enough fight to keep Denver within shouting distance. With only 4 points each from the other top Denver scoring threats of Joe Rosga and Jake Krafka, the Pioneers somehow closed the gap to 43-36 at half – with Denver tailing by only 7 points. The Jackrabbits had 5 extra rebounds and outshot the ‘visitors’ 43% to 50% for the half. (Estimates had South Dakota State fans at 9,000 strong for the game).
The second half was no better.
The Pioneers started the second half cold and fell behind by 13 points in the first minute and a half and the Jacks drew a third foul on C.J. Bobbitt. By 15:28, the Jacks ran out to a 20 point lead, 61-41, as the wheels fell off the Denver defense – allowing open 3-point shots and layups on the defensive end while rushing shots on their own offensive end. At 14:09, Daniel Amigo picked up his 4th foul. An Ade Murkey three-point bucket capped a good Denver run as they closed the deficit to 66-53 at 10:34- but that was as good as it would get for Denver. Mike Daum fouled out Daniel Amigo at 6:39 and the Jackrabbit lead blew up to 20 points again, 75-55.
SDSU gave Mike Daum some rest during the final ten minutes to prepare for the next round of the tournament as he ended with 33 points in 29 minutes. While Denver was able to whittle away at the deficit again, the Pioneers never threatened the Jacks who seemed to be enjoying every minute of their romp. The game ended 83-73 in junk time as Denver scored some easy buckets in the final minutes to narrow the score as the clock mercifully hit 0:0.
But the game was never in doubt.
Bobbitt was scoreless in the second half and Joe Rosga and Ade Murkey had 10 points each. South Dakota shot 50% to Denver’s 44.1% and out rebounded the Pioneers by 5 boards. Daniel Amigo had, perhaps, his worst game of the season on 3-13 shooting, 3 rebounds, and 5 fouls in only 23 minutes. No doubt, Mike Daum had a lot to do with his performance. Joe Rosga was cold, too, hitting only 4 of 10 from the field.
It was just disappointing to see such a lopsided loss when Denver hoops has seemed to have so many of these types of efforts over the years. Denver fans were left wanting more.
My two takeaways from today’s contest:
-Denver is likely to get two more years playing against Mike Daum. The DU coaching staff needs to figure out how to play him better defensively. While Daniel Amigo had a breakout year, Denver must match up better against #24 or just accept the fact that the next two years will finish the exact same way as this season.
-Denver will always be at a distinct disadvantage at the Summit League Conference Championships in Sioux Falls, S.D.. In the future, DU can’t be equal to the best team(s) – they have to be better to win a championship. That means DU’s returning core needs to improve, Denver gets major help from their two new incoming Freshmen (Elijah Blake and Elvin Rodriguez), and, somehow, Denver needs to get stronger, deeper, and tougher upfront – especially on defense.
All that being said, the Pioneers finished with a winning record of 16-14 and .500 in the Summit League regular season (8-8). Denver has a rock solid coaching staff and all the starters are returning next season.